The last time I wrote, I was in chapter 1 of Philippians. Paul was writing a letter to a church that he loved. He wasn’t writing a letter to scold or rebuke or correct bad doctrine. He wrote that he was thinking of them and praying for them. He wrote that every time he thinks of his church, he gives thanks to God. He wrote that he had confidence that God began a good work in their lives, and God would carry on that good work until completion. He said he longed for them, and he prayed that their love would abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight. There’s a progression here. When you want your love to abound more and more, you should gain knowledge and depth of insight into the Gospel and understanding who God is, and what he’s done for us. When that knowledge and depth of insight grows, our love abounds, but we also increase our ability to discern what’s best. In verse 7 Paul wrote “whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.” Paul sees his life as an offering to God, and he sees his position as a slave to righteousness. whether that path results in freedom or imprisonment or slavery in the eyes of the world, it’s all the same to Paul. This mindset is VERY difficult to have, and I can think of all sorts of situations where my devotion to God and my Joy are very conditional on my personal assessment of things. It’s also easy to make a mistake in thinking that someone who is in prison for preaching the word of God is involved in something bigger than a person who is preaching to a few people in a local church. Paul doesn’t try and value one form of service to God over any other. Everyone shares the same grace and is on the same team.
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
Paul has a strong affection and care for the people at the church, he is writing to them because he longs for them and misses them. But the motivation was for their knowledge and insight to grow, their love to abound. And their confidence to increase. So to increase their confidence, he wants remind them a truth. “What has happened to me has served to advance the gospel.” Paul has that one goal, advancing the Gospel; he is indifferent to whether he is personally happy or sad, comfortable or in pain, whether he feels fulfilled in his pursuits, whether he is appreciated or acknowledged, whether people respect him personally, whether or not he gets credit for the work he’s done, no matter the circumstances or conditions that he faces. Paul wants the gospel to be advanced first and foremost. And that means allowing God to do whatever He wills for our lives. If you are like Paul, and you truly understand that God is in charge, and your goal is to serve God, it doesn’t matter where your life takes you, because God brought you there. You can say that God is sovereign. You can profess that truth with your mouth and words. And it’s kind of easy, but to actually believe it, and not feel angry or frustrated or saddened when things don’t go your way is a different thing. I say these things all the time, God is sovereign, God is in charge, God is working out what’s best. But my emotions tell the truth that my words won’t admit. Sometimes I don’t share those emotions with everyone, but I feel them for sure. If I feel nervous or scared in my surroundings, my first thought isn’t, “well God is sovereign, so no need to worry”. My heart will begin to race, I will get adrenaline, and my senses will kind of kick in overdrive. When I have a bad day at work, or when I am frustrated, I feel that. I’ve gotten so angry that I almost see red. When someone disrespects me or dismisses my opinions or judges me unfairly, I get annoyed, and when that subsides, I try to figure out who’s to blame. “Was it something I said?” or “Was he just being a jerk?” My first instinct isn’t to praise God’s sovereignty, and consider what Good God is working in the situation. I don’t know what Paul’s first instincts told him, but by the time he wrote this letter, his thoughts were much more mature. Paul didn’t see himself as a victim of an injustice from Roman law, He saw God placing him in a new opportunity. He didn’t resent being in chains on this Earth, because in Paul’s mind, it wasn’t the Romans putting him in chains. It was God’s plan, and regardless of the exact reason he was in chains, he was already a doulos, a bond servant, a slave to Christ. Common wisdom and culture says to look on the bright side, see the silver lining on the clouds. Paul didn’t resent his hardship or his imprisonment. Based on the tone of this letter, it was almost like Paul was unable to see any problems with going to Jail or being chained up. He was able to see God’s favor in a situation that was seemingly unfavorable to his Philippian friends. Although Paul saw God providing, He understood that his friends at the Philippian church may have been tempted to see God not coming through with His divine promises. The palace guard and everyone else learned about why Paul was in chains. They learned that Jesus Christ is the savior of the world, and whoever believes in Him will not die but will live forever. That Forgiveness and Redemption to God the Father come by way of the sacrifice and resurrection of God the Son. Getting this message out, spreading this seed, is the primary mission. One might ask, who was Paul supposed to preach to? To anyone who will hear it, to anyone who God had placed in Paul’s path. Just like Paul was confident that God began a good work and would carry it through, verse 14 says the people who witnessed Paul in his imprisonment at the time have become confident in God and dared to proclaim the Gospel without fear. Paul writes this to increase the Philippian church’s confidence in God as well.
15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,
In verse 14, Paul wrote that his imprisonment has given people confidence to preach the word more boldly. According to verse 15, apparently some of the people preaching the word were doing it for the wrong reasons. It can be tough to have Confidence in God’s plan when you see sin in the world. When you see people doing the right things but you suspect it’s for the wrong reasons, it can be frustrating. In the world today, there are talented individuals, good musicians or athletes or celebrities who are just full of themselves, but you don’t expect to see it as much in a church. People who are envious about the size of another leader’s group versus their own following aren’t able to pay attention to the needs of others, while they are focusing on their own wants. A pastor who is motivated primarily by selfish ambition is rarely going to be good at being an effective pastor. On the other hand, an Evangelist who works at planting seeds of gospel may have less repeated interaction with people, and in that type of role, it may be more possible for someone who teaches sound doctrine to do it for the wrong reasons. Now what Paul is talking about here does not seem to be a huge problem occurring within the Philippian church, or else he would have probably spent more time talking about people’s hearts and their motivations. But he mentions it, and I think it’s most likely to encourage the church when there’s an apparent “elephant in the room” issue, something that people are talking about, something that could cause them to lose confidence, to reduce their joy, to raise doubts about this new faith called Christianity, or how the church should be structured. Paul’s words are also noteworthy, because Paul had reprimanded many churches for false doctrine. He was not fearful or reserved at all about saying that something is wrong doctrine. Circumcision, Legalism, Gnosticism, Sinful License, Immorality have all been viciously attacked in Paul’s letters. Verse 18 he says, “what does it matter” which shows Paul’s indifference toward the selfish preaching, and that means it’s safe to say the content of the preaching is sound doctrine. Like verse 15 said, maybe these selfish preachers or evangelists were jealous of the success of Paul’s ministries, and preaching from envy, or maybe they were ambitious and just wanted to be an elder in their own group of churches. Some didn’t like Paul personally and wanted to stir up trouble for Paul’s ministry. Human nature is sinful, and there are sins that bleed into all aspects of our lives. Paul can see beyond the sin and look past the sinners see whether God’s will is being done, whether Christ is being preached and magnified. In this case despite the unsavory motivations, it seemed like the message was intact, so Paul looked past the negative and focused on his one true Goal.
19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.[d] 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
In Verse 19 Paul emphasizes the importance of prayers as well as God’s provision. Prayers are mysterious, because God knows all, and the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groaning and words that we don’t even understand. So the commands by God and Jesus to pray seem almost logically redundant. Sometimes I am guilty of making that excuse for not praying, because in my mind it’s a waste of time to say something and ask things that God already knows. But prayer is a spiritual discipline and it’s something that is required of us. So how do we benefit? Prayer helps us understand our own hearts. Sometimes I think it’s wrong to ask God something, as if I am trying to petition for a better or different lot in life. But when I ask, I can think about and analyze why I am asking for what I am asking for. I worry I am trying to invoke a Genie to grant my wish or Santa Claus to bring me a list of wants. Jesus taught us how to pray and when you listen to the lords prayer, His prayer doesn’t sound like any of those things I was worrying about. Prayer should acknowledge God is a Father,, he is Holy and worth worshipping. Prayer should also acknowledge that God’s will and his Kingdom is better than our own will, That his plan is better than our own ideas for how this Earth should be remade in our minds. Prayer should acknowledge that God is a Provider, and gives us our daily needs physical and spiritual. Paul acknowledges this in verse 19 when he says that it was their prayers plus God’s provision of the Holy Spirit that gives him the confidence that whatever is happening should be happening and will turn out according to his “deliverance”. Verse 20 continues that he is has faith, which is a word we use to capture that he’s eagerly expecting and hoping that he will not be ashamed, and that God’s spirit has given him sufficient courage to do whatever needs to be done in order to reach that Prime Directive – Christ will be exalted. In my body. With my life. Whether I live, wherever this life takes me, however it ends, whatever circumstance leads to my death. Christ Will be exalted. There’s no if’s and’s or buts, There’s no condition. I have sufficient courage to know that Christ will be Exalted by my body. Let’s read on about the Prime Directive.
21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;
Verse 21. To live is Christ, to Die is gain. This is a very popular verse to quote, but it captures what Paul has been getting at for the entirety of Chapter 1. He has a 1 track mind, a prime directive. In verse 20 he says Christ will be Exalted. I picture a robot like the one in Wall-E who repeats the word Directive.
Paul has this directive, and he keeps repeating this over and over again. Christ will be Exalted. Christ will be exalted. Imagine saying that before, during, and after everything you do! It might change your behavior to have that on your mind at all times. And if that’s all your life is about, living is Christ. And Dying is being united with Christ, in the presence with God! for eternity! Read verse 22, again. Paul is a doulos servant. Living means being enslaved to the best, kindest, most loving and gracious master than you could ever imagine. Living means fruitful labor. He asks himself the hypothetical , which is better living for Christ, Dying for gain? He’s torn because both are SO GOOD! One is death and Heaven which is better by far, the other is Living which is necessary and valuable and accomplishing this prime directive. If you live, Christ will be Exalted. If you die, Christ will be enjoyed forever.
24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
In verse 25 Paul seems to think he will live longer because there’s work to do, there’s progress to make, there’s a certain joy to having faith. At some point Faith will go away when the completeness of Death actually happens. But for now, we can enjoy faith and be strenthened by it. In Verse 26, Paul says if he’s with them again, they will boast all the more in Christ Jesus. We have nothing to boast about besides being in Chrst Jesus, being adopted into a family. None of this is our doing, but God’s grace. If Paul can help peple to see God and to love God and Boast in God, he is accomplishing his directive. Christ will be exalted.
27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit,[e] striving together as one for the faith of the gospel
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ. Paul is saying, “I have this prime directive. Christ will be exalted in EVERYTHING. My body, my life, everything will exalt Christ. Then he says, I encourage you to have the same mindset, to join me, and stand firm with me in one Spirit”. Whether Paul lives to come and see them, of if he only hears about them, he has that assurance that they are striving together, that they are in the same faith of the same Gospel, and are partners. Paul’s letter is one of encouragement, he wants to strengthen his beloved church in Philippi. First he says in verse 27 Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel. That should be how we live our lives all the time. But that conduct looks a certain way in the special case of when you are being opposed. Paul is also preparing the readers by explaining what conduct looks like in the face of opposition.
28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
When facing opposition we must remember Jesus who said to pray for those who persecute you, to turn the other cheek, to give more than is expected or warranted. Go two miles when forced to go one. Paul adds that it also means Don’t be frightened by anyone who opposes you. Anyone who opposes Christians for being followers of Christ is on the wrong side of this opposition. Paul knows this firsthand because when he was younger, and named Saul, he was on the wrong side of this battle. Being in opposition to God is not the winning side of the battle. If you stay in opposition to God, you will eventually lose. Paul said they will be destroyed, but you will be saved. And I love at the end of verse 28 he reminds them they will be saved, but Not by your own strength, but by God’s Grace. Verse 29 says it’s been granted to them on behalf of Christ not just to believe, but to suffer for him. Anyone who preaches that we choose our salvation or that we are saved by works must read past a LOT of evidence to the contrary. Read this again! It has been granted to you. This is something that is given or allowed, it’s written in the passive voice. Something is granted to, or given to you by decree, by God, on behalf of Jesus Christ, who is the benefactor, and the thing that’s given is belief in Jesus. Salvation is by grace, a gift, not from ourselves. That is supposed to be given, or understood, but many people miss this doctrine. Here Paul is writing that not just that saving belief is a gift, but also the opportunity to suffer for him. It’s kind of easy to see our salvation as a gift from God. It’s a bit harder to see that our faith and belief as a Gift from God, but the hardest of these is to see suffering as a gift from God. When you are able to see your suffering as a gift, something that can be lumped together with salvation and belief, it should change the perspective on things. Suffering for Christ is a gift granted by God. If that’s not easy for you, I am not surprised, because it isn’t my first instinct either. I don’t look forward to suffering for my faith, but it is something that would unite me with other believers throughout history. In verse 30, Paul writes that when the Philippian church suffers, they go through the same struggle that he has gone through. Suffering unites us with each other, it unites us with the churches throughout history and it unites us with Christ himself. It is something that sometimes happens in our lives that allows us to accomplish that one goal. Exalt Christ with our bodies, in our lives. Earlier we were talking about prayer, and how that’s a window into our hearts. We analyse our thoughts and our requests to God. When I look at prayer and together with that When I think about how selfish I can be, I learn how natural it is for me to pray for self preservation, self protection; I realize most of the time I pray for suffering avoidance. But I should be praying for the maturity to understand that God’s gifts include suffering. Jesus Christ prayed for suffering avoidance in the Garden of Gethsamene, but at the end he acknowledged that “not my will but Yours be done”. Jesus prayed to avoid suffering, but never at the cost of giving God glory. Never at the cost of achieving his directive. Jesus’s directive was to do the will of the Father, to give God all the Glory. When Jesus was suffering, he no longer prayed to avoid it. Instead he was praying for God to forgive his tormentors. Forgive them father, for they know not what they do. The directive was still to give God glory, but doing so meant leading sinners to forgiveness. What’s our directive? In this season, it’s easy to be focused on the busy calendar. It’s easy to mistake short deadlines and checking off boxes on a to do list for the prime goal. There are all sorts of demands this time of year from friends and family, work, travel. Whatever we are doing, let’s keep the overarching goal of Exalting Christ in our minds. Lets remember to live is Christ, like Paul, for us living means fruitful labor for the goal of exalting Christ, magnifying the Son, sharing the love of God, and teaching the salvation found only in Christ.